[Sport] Manchester United 6-2 Roma: Cavani and Fernandes put Red Devils on course for final

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Edinson Cavani and Bruno Fernandes both scored twice as Manchester United thrashed Roma 6-2 in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final.

Fernandes opened the scoring in a thriller at Old Trafford on Thursday, but Roma led 2-1 at half-time despite losing three players due to injury – including goalkeeper Pau Lopez.

Lorenzo Pellegrini equalised with a controversial penalty and Edin Dzeko put the Serie A side in front, but the Red Devils stormed back in stunning fashion in the second half.

The magnificent Cavani struck twice and Fernandes sealed a brace of his own with another questionable spot-kick before Paul Pogba – who gave away that harsh first-half penalty – added a fifth.

Mason Greenwood had the final say to put United firmly on course for the final ahead of the second leg at Stadio Olimpico in seven days’ time.

The Giallorossi lost Jordan Veretout to a hamstring injury early on, Gonzalo Villar replacing him in midfield, and they suffered another blow when Fernandes opening the scoring with a superbly worked goal in the ninth minute.

Pogba turned sharply and burst forward before finding Cavani, whose clever first-time pass sent Fernandes through and the Portugal midfielder calmly lifted the ball over goalkeeper Lopez and into the net.

Roma were level six minutes later, with Pogba seemingly harshly penalised for handling when he slid in trying to block a cross and Pellegrini made no mistake from the spot.

Antonio Mirante took over in goal after Lopez injured himself saving a shot from Pogba with less than half an hour gone, but the Eternal City club were in front 33 minutes in.

Former United midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan picked out Pellegrini with a brilliant reverse pass and the captain set Dzeko up for a tap-in.

Leonardo Spinazzola became the third Roma player to make an early exit due to injury and Mirante denied Cavani when he was gifted a great opportunity by some poor defending just before the break.

Cavani showed his class to equalise a couple of minutes into the second half, though, finding the top corner with a clinical first-time finish after Fernandes played him in.

The Uruguay striker then showed his predatory instincts to put the Red Devils back in front after 64 minutes, tucking in from close range after Mirante could only palm Aaron Wan-Bissaka’s shot into his path.

Fernandes gave United breathing space when he expertly converted from the penalty spot after ex-United defender Chris Smalling was contentiously adjudged to have fouled Cavani as he tried to complete a hat-trick.

The inspirational Fernandes turned provider once again for United’s fifth goal, delivering a pinpoint cross for Pogba to head home and Greenwood slid in a sixth following another sublime assist from Cavani four minutes from time.

What does it mean? Stunning second half puts United on the road to Gdansk

It was all to play for at half-time, but the tie is surely over after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side ruthlessly tore Roma to pieces after the interval.

They scored six goals in a European match for the first time since putting seven past the same opponents in April 2007. United are also the first side to score as many goals in a major European semi-final since Real Madrid in the 1964 European Cup.

The Red Devils can surely look forward to a final against Villarreal or Arsenal in Gdansk on May 26, the LaLiga side holding a 2-1 lead after the first leg.

Cavani a class act

United were relentless as they swept forward in the second half and Cavani was magnificent throughout.

He took his first goal brilliantly and was in the right place at the right time for his second, also providing two assists.

It was an exhibition of leading the line, with Fernandes and Pogba also world class behind the 34-year-old frontman.

Miserable return for Smalling

Smalling might be having nightmares about his return to Old Trafford.

The centre-back was unlucky to have given away a penalty for a foul on Cavani, but he was given a torrid evening by Cavani as United fired on all cylinders.

Key Opta Facts

– Manchester United are first side to score six in the semi-final of a major European competition since May 1964 when Real Madrid beat FC Zurich 6-0 in the European Cup 2nd Leg.

– United scored six goals in a single match in European competition for the first time since netting seven against Roma in April 2007.

– Roma are the first Italian side to concede six goals in the semi-final of a European competition.

– Bruno Fernandes netted his 25th and 26th goals of the season in all competitions, with Harry Kane (31) and Mohamed Salah (29) the only two Premier League players to score more.

What’s next?

United face fierce rivals Liverpool in the Premier League on Sunday, while Roma end the week with a Serie A encounter at Sampdoria.

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